Thursday, August 21, 2014

Homeschool Recap: June to August 2014

August is almost over. Time flies so fast indeed especially when we are very busy. But I'm happy because my family and I had been busy with the right things -- things that are important to us.
I praise and thank the Lord for the grace to still homeschool my two kids even though I'm currently pregnant and I took on a project (making my breastfeeding book into an eBook and releasing on Amazon) in the past month.
I'm writing this post to somehow document what our family did during the first quarter or in the last two months. We had a slow and relaxed first month. (You can read about it here.) I'm very blessed though that my eldest learns fast most of the time and he has been generally cooperative.
Let me start my recap of what we did by enumerating the things/activities we had most days or almost everyday. I say almost because there are days when I'm busy with my project and I just let the kids play.
Yanthy seriously reading The Life of Fred.
1. Reading - We read everyday -- books, magazines, anything that the kids find interesting. I do my best to read to my kids everyday even when I'm busy. My goal is to read at least books to them daily. The boys read on their own also, particularly my eldest. Actually, he's quite unstoppable when it comes to reading. He's such a bookworm. I sometimes need to tell him to stop and rest so he could nap or go to sleep already at night. One of his favorite reads in the past quarter is his children's dictionary. (You may read my review of our awesome children's dictionary here.) My youngest loves books also. He can already read a few sight words. When my husband and I are not available to read to him, he asks his older brother to read to him. This is one of the blessings of having more than one child. The older ones eventually take care of the younger ones. Sometimes, he 'reads' on his own. He pretends that he is reading by retelling the story or he recites the story verbatim from memory. He has memorized some of the books we read frequently. We make our books accessible to the kids so they can pick up a book anytime they want. We also do a lot of activities based on the books that we read. Most of our kids' art and craft activities are inspired by the books in our library. Some of their games are also inspired by these books. Reading has a lot of benefits. You might find this article that I wrote in the past interesting: The 6 Stages of Reading Development and Why You Should Read to Your Baby. I taught my eldest phonics using the Phonics-in-Reading Series. You may read my review of these books here.

My son's notes on the Mass songs
he studied.
2. Music - My kids are very musical. They are either singing or  making music or dancing to the tunes that they play or are listening to. My eldest son is very much into playing the piano these days. When he was younger, he was very interested in playing the guitar. He learned a few chords but when he started playing the piano, he really got motivated and flourished. He can now play several pieces. He practices at home using our keyboard and he practices also in the church after we hear weekday Mass. He has made it his goal to master all the songs usually played/sang in the Mass so that he can serve in the Mass eventually. He practices on his own everyday. He already knows how to play Alleluia, Holy and Amen. He close to memorizing Glory to God and Song to San Lorenzo Ruiz. My younger son likes to tinker with the piano also. Well, most younger kids like to imitate their older brothers. He also likes to sing. He has learned some of the songs in the Mass also. One of my joys daily is hearing my kids sing songs in Mass with so much gusto. I'm sure that God is smiling down at them as well every time they sing their heart out to worship. When the kids are not tinkering with any musical instrument, they play some tunes on the stereo and sing along. My youngest usually listens to nursery rhymes. When his older brother is already awake, we change the music to worship or praise songs. They like pretending that they are performing in a worship concert. If your kids are musical like mine, you might find this article helpful: 5 Games for Musically-Inclined Children.
Thing 1 and Thing 2 in a box!
Inspired by The Cat in the Hat.
3. Pretend play and free play - My kids spend most of their time  doing these every single day. I let their imagination run wild the whole day. They like imitating the usual activities that we are engaged in like going to the grocery, cooking, travelling or having a business. They also sometimes invent their own games. Some days, they play with the other boys in our neighborhood who are almost the same age as they are in our garage or in the basketball court in our subdivision. Most days, they are each others' playmate. They play tag, basketball, hopscotch or throw and catch. Indoors, they like playing with building blocks, wooden blocks, puzzles, foam letters, paper planes or boats with matching maps, they build forts or houses or they play hide and seek. You can read my previous articles about the lessons kids learn from pretend play below:
7 Lessons Kids Can Learn from Playing Store
7 Benefits Kids Can Get from Playing Doctor
Lessons Kids Can Gain from a Farm-Themed Birthday Party
4. Doodling, drawing, writing - The kids like to draw or doodle. I just make sure that we always have plenty of scratch papers and that they know where to get their pencils or crayons. As I've mentioned earlier, younger kids like to imitate their older siblings so when my younger son sees his older brother writing or drawing, he does the same. I ask my eldest son to practice writing his name, the day and date almost everyday. I also asked him to write three words that start with the same letter of the alphabet each handwriting practice day. I'm happy to share that today marks our completion of this exercise. We already finished all the letters of the alphabet. Aside from our regular practice exercise, my eldest son gets to practice his handwriting every time his Dad teaches him a new song to play in the piano. He writes the chords of the new song he's learning in his small notebook. Then, he uses his notes when he practices on his own daily. he and his younger brother also had a chance to practice their handwriting and drawing skills when we made birthday cards/notes in the past months. Sometimes, my eldest would copy some of the title of his books on his notebook or anything that catches his attention. On a few occasions, he would write notes to his younger brother in his notebook or on a piece of paper when the younger boy would not listen or obey. He also likes making signages , receipts or play for their pretend store. There was a time when he wrote his own 'book' (he likes to pretend that he's also an author just like me).

Yanthy wrote a letter for my mom on her birthday.

The boys made a birthday card for the pianist in our church, Tito Ed.
He is also my eldest son's inspiration and piano teacher.
5. Daily prayer and Mass - We do our best to participate in the weekday Mass aside from going to church on Sundays. I usually bring both boys with me. I'm also happy that my husband gets to hear Mass with us often since we moved to our new home, which is a bit closer to his office. It's quite challenging to make the boys sit still or to be behaved for the duration for the Mass. But I believe that bringing them to Mass as often as possible would teach and train them on the proper behavior. I want to give them as much practice as possible. I want to instill in them a love and hunger for the Holy Eucharist. I'm glad that so far, they are exhibiting these traits even at a very young age. They usually say before bed that among their high points for the day is participating in the Mass. It also helps that we have made some friends in our parish and we got to know some of the servants in the church. These new friends encourage the boys to sing and participate although sometimes they can be noisy. Well, kids are kids. My boys are only 2 and 5. I can't expect them to sit still, not move a finger or make a noise for an entire hour. I'm happy that at least they are participating by singing and responding during the Mass. Even my 2 year old knows most of the responses and anticipates singing some parts of the Mass. They have also developed the habit of praying at different times of the day. I was very happy one time when our 2-year-old tried to pray the rosary with us while we were in our vehicle travelling. I also love that when they get hurt, are wounded or not feeling well due to an illness, they turn to God and prayer right away. One of our main reasons and goals in homeschooling our children is to introduce our Catholic faith to them and to teach them to make their relationship with God their foundation in life. I'm very happy to see this happen now.
6. Chores - My kids' daily chore is to make sure that they pack away their things to their respective areas after using them. These include their books, toys and clothes. I train them to always put things back where they got them and to clean up after their mess. Of course, the kids need to be reminded of this rule daily. Sometimes, they do this right away. Other times, it takes them a while before they obey even with verbal cues or reminders. I do not require them to sort the clean laundry and put them back into their closets but whenever they see that our maid is doing this, they help out even without prodding. We are blessed because these boys like to help out most of the time. They also like helping out in putting our groceries into their respective cabinets or putting the fresh produce in the refrigerator.

7. Storytelling - My husband and I tell a lot of stories to our kids. We tell them fictitious stories as well as stories from the Bible and from our past experiences. We usually do this before they go to sleep in the afternoon or at night. The boys love this time! Then, they also take turns telling their own stories or retelling ours. It helps build and develop imagination, focus, vocabulary, confidence, comprehension and communication skills.
These are the things that we regularly do or do almost everyday.
For our structured homeschool activities, we used Fun Thinkers, a few activity books and recently The Life of Fred.
There were weeks when we did not use these materials daily. There were also days when my eldest wanted to use these materials until we finished a certain level. My boys liked using Fun Thinkers. Even my 2-year-old enjoys using it. (You may read my review of this product here.)

A sample page from Critical Thinking Level 1 of Fun Thinkers.
This was answered by Mateo.
I started using Math, English and Critical Thinking Level 1 with my toddler. We're taking it slow.

Moreover, I developed a Transportation-themed Alphabet Curriculum for my 2-year-old. You may download a copy of this for free if you have a child who likes cars, trucks and trains too like my sons. Just head to my blog's sidebar and sign up. We started using it last week. It's my way of gently integrating the concept of alphabets in my toddler's play activities. I also let him watch for a few minutes the educational videos I used in teaching his older brother the alphabets, phonics, counting, and colors.
As for my eldest son, we finished English Levels 2 and 3 in the past two months. Actually, it took us days only to finish each level. My eldest is quite fast in this topic. We took up Level 2 in July and Level 3 this August.

Addition and subtraction lessons using building blocks.

Lesson on sets using wooden blocks.
We finished Math Levels 1 and 2 also in the past two months. He's not as fast in Math as he is in English. I supplemented our Fun Thinkers books with manipulatives (toys and things he can use for addition and subtraction).

Addition lessons using coins.
We recently bought The Life of Fred book Apples. It's the first in the series of The Life of Fred Math books. My eldest son liked it right away. He read it from cover to cover on the day it was delivered to our house. We have only used it for one day so far. But we have covered and answered the questions in the first 6 chapters already. I predict that we'd be able to finish it at the latest before Christmas. At the earliest, my son might choose to finish it next week! 
For our Science lessons, my kids use their natural curiosity and observe their surroundings and the things that usually happen in their environment. They are naturally inquisitive. I sometimes run out of answers to their questions. In the past quarter, most of their questions and lessons were about the weather, plants, insects and the planets in the solar system. When we studied the planets, the kids also drew and painted circles to symbolize the 9 planets. They also learned a song to help them memorize them.

My eldest also answered a number of mazes in the past quarter. He enjoys answering them so my husband and I looked for mazes whose themes match his usual interests.
My eldest also became interested in maps recently when my husband bought him a map of the Philippines and a map of Asia. because of this current interest, we will buy him a globe soon.
We only spend an hour at the most in my eldest son's structured homeschool activities. That happens when my eldest is on a roll and has gained momentum in answering either Fun Thinkers, a reading and comprehension book or The Life of Fred. Our activities last around 20-30 minutes each then we take a break. We either eat or my son plays on his own or with his younger sibling.

As for my toddler, his lessons last between 10 minutes to 20 minutes. Most of these are play-based.

Our structured activities usually happen in the morning before lunch and after lunch before nap. My younger son goes to nap earlier than my eldest. That gives me and my eldest more quiet time for our homeschool activities.

My husband teaches our kids in the evening or at night and during weekends.

The kids exercise (PE) through walking, jogging and running during weekends and on holidays at the park.

But I believe that we homeschool all day and everyday through our conversations and our regular activities at home.

Our activities last long like an hour or more if we do art and craft activities.

You may read about our homeschool activities in the past quarter in the following previous posts:

Math Lessons Today Using Fun Thinkers and Building Blocks
Our Homeschool Lessons Today
A Fruitful and Fun Day in our Homeschool
Spelling on a Rainy Day

It has been surprisingly a productive quarter for our homeschool family! Thank God for His abundant grace and inspiration!

How was your first quarter in your homeschool? Feel free to share about it in the comments.  

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